Sunday, January 11, 2009

New toys

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Some new cooking toys arrived this December, and I finally had a chance to start playing with them. I've lived without a food processor for years. I had one, but it lived off the counter, down low in the cupboard, pretty much guaranteeing that it wouldn't get used. Plus it was over 25 years old, and the bowl was cracked. For the cost of replacing the bowl, I could get a brand new one...and, without a whole lot of research, decided to trust Mark Bittman's advice and get the 14-cup Hamilton Beach processor (well....Susan got it for me...thank you Susan!). And she also got me a nice little stone mortar and pestle. They both needed breaking in.

I had some ground lamb in the freezer, and it's been wanting a mission, so I had in mind something Greek or Middle Eastern...and I did some searching for inspiration. Chowhound had a couple of ideas, here and here. I took some bits and pieces from each, and created something that I'd say tasted something like moussaka, but without all the layering, and minus the white sauce that seems to be part of real moussaka. The lamb and the seasonings worked perfectly together, and the eggplant softened and soaked up all the flavor. I'm still learning to cook with eggplant.

Almost Moussaka

1 1/2 lb ground lamb
1 28 oz can tomatoes (diced, or whole, and process)
1 large yellow onion
1 medium eggplant
1/2 bag spinach
1 TBS garam masala
1 tsp whole cumin seed, ground
2 icetray cubes of roasted tomato sauce (made this past fall...and I can't find the recipe! You could use tomato paste, or some sundried tomatoes, or canned roasted tomatoes)
1 cup red wine
3 eggs

Brown the lamb, while softening the onions and adding the spices. When brown, add the rest of the ingredients (except the eggs), and simmer for about an hour...add the spinach until it wilts. Poke indentations in the top, and drop in an egg in each indentation. We had three eaters, so we used three eggs.

Serve over something starchy. We tried rotelli pasta the first night, and it was OK, but not spectacular (that's the picture above, with the egg). For the second night....Polenta! And it was perfect (that's the picture below). Mashed potatoes would work too...but Polenta is a lot easier, and I like it better anyway. Sop up the extra with some bread. (I tried my first "Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day" loaf....more on that experiment another time!)

I did find the eggs a bit extraneous. It was in one of the inspirational chowhound posts, and then I ran across eggs done like this in a bunch of Greek-inspired recipes. It didn't do much for me, and seemed like overkill.

Oh...back to the original title. I used the food processor for the onions and the tomatoes, and so far I'm happy. The cumin succumbed to the mortar (or is it the pestle) readily!

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